Carry On: Les Fines Lames

    Innovation has been a driving force behind the rise of Les Fines Lames, a bespoke cigar cutter. Now its founder, Pierre Jourdan, shares the details of his unconventional entrepreneurial journey and his strategy for becoming every cigar smoker’s must-have accessory.

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    “During Les Fines Lames’ genesis, it was necessary to find nearby expertise and to have a great story to tell,” explains Rodet. “Fortunately, France has one of the most skilled craftsmen in the world in terms of cutting tools. Even though the company is headquartered in Marseille, where all the product design and development is done, the cutters are manufactured in Thiers, the French capital of knifemaking for 600 years.”

    Each Les Fines Lames knife requires the work and contributions of seven different workshops, each of which has a specialized skill and tradition that make Les Fines Lames unique. Each cigar knife is both market- and aesthetically driven. Les Fines Lames has two different cutters in its portfolio—the Original and Le Petit—which were launched less than a year ago. Both cutters work the same way and offer the same level of quality. The only difference between them is their size. Jourdan developed the design of the Original with Bouten, who had experience with knives and was able to take Jourdan’s knowledge of cigars and develop a one-of-a-kind accessory. In 2018, Jourdan and Rodet found that the market was in need of a more affordable but innovative French-made accessory that could be sold for less than $150.

    “I designed Le Petit while on Christmas break in 2018,” says Jourdan. “We launched the prototype as soon as I returned home. Going from the larger size of the Original to the smaller Le Petit, it was a challenge to miniaturize [the product] without impairing the cutter’s possibility in terms of ring gauge capability. We imagined Le Petit as a cigar cutter that would be smaller, more convenient to carry around and much more affordable than the Original.”

    Less than eight months after the initial sketches were drawn, Les Fines Lames launched three different Le Petit products with the help of a crowdfunding campaign. Both the Original and Le Petit were designed to offer cigar smokers very clean cuts, and because both also double as knives, cigar smokers can use them either to perform straight cuts or v-cuts. Le Petit, for example, has a built-in 23 mm aperture that can cut a 58 ring gauge cigar in half. Depending how much of the cigar’s cap is cut, Le Petit can also cut up to a 70 ring gauge cigar, extending its utility. If needed, Les Fines Lames can also be fully opened by using just one hand thanks to a lever that extends the blade so it can be used as a knife.

    To keep the products fresh and make them visually appealing for consumers, Jourdan and his team are constantly tracking trends, experimenting with new designs and seeking customer feedback. Sarlin regularly presents Jourdan with innovative materials and technical solutions that are available from their supplier network. In turn, Jourdan works with the company’s retail and wholesale partners to track how different products are performing and to determine what the company can do to help increase sales and meet global needs. The company’s attention to detail and its focus on innovation has caught on among cigar connoisseurs around the world, earning the company a nomination for accessory manufacturer of the year in the 2020 Tobacco Business Awards. At the awards ceremony, which was held at the Tobacco Plus Expo (TPE) trade show in Las Vegas in January, Jourdan and Rodet had the opportunity to meet and speak with various cigar industry professionals, including Boveda’s Sean Knutsen, Tatuaje Cigars’ Pete Johnson and Villiger Cigars’ Mirko Lorenzi. These meetings and conversations sparked new ideas that Rodet and Jourdan have been developing this year while working through the COVID-19 pandemic in France.

    “This year, we released three special series knives with engraved blades: Skyline, Compass and Brass; five new woods in the classic series: curly maple, marblewood, acacia burl, Kingwood and Purpleheart; and a limited and numbered edition with a mythical rum brand. Distributors now have a large range of products at different prices to offer their customers,” says Rodet.

    Mass Appeal
    Due to the experience of being able to cut a cigar with a knife, Les Fines Lames’ products have a broad appeal among cigar consumers. In the beginning, the cigar knife concept resonated with young adult consumers, but today Rodet reports that sales data show that more than half of Les Fines Lames’ customer base is between the ages of 35 and 49. A quarter of them are over 50. Women also are an important part of Les Fines Lames’ customer base. Jourdan attributes the appeal of Les Fines Lames’ cigar knives among women to their adventurous nature. When the idea of Le Petit was first conceived, women were the first to be shown the new product, and many responded positively to it. Le Petit’s price point makes it an affordable gift for any occasion.

    “Our typical customer likes beautiful, quality objects that last over time and are passed on from generation to generation,” says Rodet. “This is the European tradition of the knife. On the other hand, this same customer is also attracted to things that are fun to use and knows how to recognize an innovation when it is used every day and brings a little more joy to their lives.”

    Les Fines LamesOne misconception that retailers tend to have about Les Fines Lames is that it is an ultra-premium product that may not resonate with some consumers. Jourdan explains that many reviews of Les Fines Lames that rank high among online search engines are based on the Original, which has a price point over $400. That price point inspired Jourdan and his team to develop Le Petit to be just as luxurious but far more affordable, starting at $149. All of Les Fines Lames’ cigar knives are made in France and designed to be premium. Rodet, in particular, understands that, for retailers, the most important question that will be asked and considered is, “What will Les Fines Lames offer in terms of profitability?” To that question, Rodet has two responses: customer service and price.

    “Looking at the numbers and figures from wholesalers and other retailers, Les Fines Lames is definitely not just a trendy accessory,” he says. “We’ve proven that it’s possible to offer a quality, 100 percent French-made, guaranteed-for-life cigar-cutter-and-knife-in-one for an affordable price. The more people that have tried it have been won over by Les Fines Lames’ perfect cut.”

    Five years ago, Jourdan set out to create a cigar accessory that efficiently combined the dual functions of a cigar cutter with the functionality of a knife. With its ability to deliver a nearly perfect cut to cigars of various ring gauges, Les Fines Lames carved out a place for itself in the everyday carry category. Les Fines Lames’ Original sparked interest and excitement among cigar connoisseurs, but its high price tag served as a driving force for Jourdan and his team to continue to innovate the accessory channel by creating a luxury, French-made cigar knife with a lower price tag so that more consumers could enjoy it.

    From its use of social media to fund its product development to its quest to make its products more affordable without sacrificing quality, Les Fines Lames’ business strategy is as sharp and focused as the blades of its cigar knives. Les Fines Lames is focused on growth, and Jourdan has set his sights on not only dominating the European market but increasing awareness and demand for Les Fines Lames’ products in other cigar markets, including America and the Middle East. As he works toward international domination, Jourdan and his team focus on convincing cigar smokers across the world that a Les Fines Lames product is an innovative, must-have multipurpose tool they’ll want to carry everywhere life takes them.

    This story first appeared in the November/December 2020 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription to our magazine. Click here for details.

    Story by Antoine Reid, senior editor and digital director for Tobacco Business Magazine. You can follow him on Instagram @editor.reid.